Expect the Unexpected: How COVID-19 is Shaping Succession Planning Discussions for Business of All Sizes

The Importance of Succession Planning

How do you measure success in business? Productivity and profit might be top of mind. But you’re missing an important element of success if succession planning isn’t part of the equation. Succession planning should be a foundational aspect of the culture of your business. The “always be planning” mentality. 

Unfortunately — even in the pre-COVID landscape — few small and family-owned businesses were actively having conversations about succession planning until the need to name a successor stared them in the face. Whether in a surprise retirement, sudden illness, death in the family or other tragedy.  

In today’s post-COVID environment, unexpected succession planning discussions are taking place in businesses across the nation as boards of directors evaluate employees and leadership based on their abilities to meet the needs of the company and its customers in the midst of the pandemic. Large-scale businesses are laying off by the thousands, and even family-owned businesses are making the difficult decision to furlough a large percentage of their workforce.   

Executives of all levels must make quick decisions and be able to pivot on a moment’s notice, all while pulling together their teams and maintaining the culture of the business. And those who can’t perform —  those who simply can’t maintain the pace of new and unprecedented demands — are being replaced.  

Characteristics of Successful Leaders

COVID-19 has forced business owners and boards of directors to identify what leadership looks like in the face of a pandemic. In many cases, it will never be “business as usual” again. What skill sets are required for successful leadership for your organization today? Strategy, creativity, communication and innovation are essential. Are your existing leaders — and even the prospective successors in your pipeline — able to write and function with a three-month business plan, as opposed to a three or five-year plan? How well can they operate with fewer people?  

This “new normal” is different than ever before, and businesses must be willing to have serious discussions about succession planning. It should be a topic in executive board meetings every quarter. And while evaluating your talent pipeline for those essential leadership skills is an important part of the discussion, today’s business environment necessitates another complex decision. Are there employees to whom you should consider offering early retirement? Even the most loyal, long-term employees can struggle to adapt to this new work environment. Creating opportunity for a graceful exit for such employees can be a win-win situation, but it requires planning, including knowing who their replacement will be. 

Don’t be caught unprepared when it’s time to fill an executive role in your organization. Succession planning is a conversation that must take place, and Linked Executive Search can help. And don’t let cost be a deterrent from seeking help. It costs you nothing to have a discussion with us about filling in the gaps within your organization.  

When it’s time to start your search, we’ll put our vast network of candidates to work to help you locate the right person with the right skillset in your area. Contact us today to learn more. 

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